Lone worker or lone ranger? - Business Works
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Lone worker or lone ranger?

CMI lone worker
I s the lone worker / remote staff the 'lone ranger' of your business, riding / driving to the rescue of your customers? If your organisation is changing from a location-based work force to that of remote / lone working, what consideration did you, or will you, give to that individual or group of individuals? What can you share that ensures a safe work environment for all staff?

Having personal experience of lone working as part of a Business Process Reengineering project a number of years back, I am only too aware that, at that time, I was focused on performance improvement, reduced cost and improved customer service. The reality of lone working is that you can, without realising, remove the safety blanket of teamwork, comradeship and sharing of information and experience. Consider the effect of the above and how it can impact on an individual’s health - and therefore your perceived performance gains.

Setting up a new business is different from restructuring a business, or is it? What consideration have you given to the health, safety and general well-being of your staff? What are the legal responsibilities for you as a business? Do you have a duty of care and are you meeting that duty? Could it be a case of 'out of sight out of mind'?

First: what is a lone worker?

For me, lone workers are those who work by themselves, without close or direct supervision. They drive from home to specific jobs / appointment and return home. Simple.

Now, what risk could that hold for anyone, you may well ask, and how would you mitigate against it? Or is it the employee's responsibility, sort of 'out of sight out of mind'? I am inclined to believe that, as employers and employees, there is a 'joint need' to investigate the potential hazards faced as an individual lone worker, as well as the employer, and to assess the risks involved, both to the lone worker and to any person who may be affected by their work. Extra consideration should taken from your existing workforce, with any of their concerns taken on board.

Most people will know or recall the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh who was reported missing on 26 July 1986. Twenty-five years later, we are still questioning how we manage our direct-to-site workers. Maybe the question should be, how we care for our lone workers?

Most of us report to an office each day and leave each night to go home. Most have to report in to a line manger if we are ill on the morning of the first day of absence. Because we work in an office environment, we become creatures of habit, we know each others daily routine pretty much and we will question unusual deviation from the norm. So, from this perspective there is safety in numbers.

Now, look at the lone workers eg. service engineers. We may well know if they are late for an appointment because of a customer complaint, but will you know if they are late home or don’t come home? Have you considered this in your risk assessment? Do you have a risk assessment? Do you have a buddy system, a vehicle management system, mobile communication, electronic sign in and out?

Additional information is available from the Health and Safety Executive, Trade associations or employers’ organisations, trade unions and some charities such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

Make use of it. Share it and let us ensure that lone workers have the safest environment we can possibly give them.

Lone worker or Lone ranger?

Tom Doran CMgr FCMI is an Ambassador for the Chartered Management Institute: www.managers.org.uk

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